Cold calling is one of the more challenging aspects of selling. As a young application engineer, I was sent to the West Coast for a summer, to fill in as the acting regional sales manager. That experience ended up being one of the best learning opportunities of my career.
One of the most important skills I learned was the art of cold call selling. Some consider cold calling a necessary evil. Sure, it’s not always easy, but by learning as much as you can about your clients and your products, you can greatly increase your success rate.
Here are seven tips for successful cold call selling:
1. Position for success: Positioning is critical for building and maintaining any brand. Position you and your company as the best at what you do. Why is it important to be seen as the best? Consider this question: Who was the second man to walk on the moon? You probably have no idea, but I’ll bet you know who the first person was. It takes hard work and drive on a consistent basis to achieve best in class positioning, but it’s well worth it.
2. Be an expert: Become a knowledgeable expert in your field as quickly as you can. Having information and ideas your clients find helpful puts you in a different category from other sales people that may knock on their door. Be committed to your decision to become an expert and have a plan of action on how you will get there.
3. Exude enthusiasm: Always be positive and exude enthusiasm. By staying positive you can more readily handle the emotional ups and downs that are part of the selling experience. More importantly, clients will enjoy being around you and be more confident in your products and solutions.
4. Learn the art of smokestacking: During the more industrial days a salesperson could find potential customers by “smokestacking,” or driving around looking for factory smokestacks. In our modern days you probably won’t be looking for smokestacks, but you should still be smokestacking to find potential clients. Once you determine what the modern version of a smokestack looks like for your customers, you should aggressively seek them out to find potential clients.
5. Leverage the wrapper: When selling a product, there is the product itself, then there are the attributes that surround the product. These value added attributes could be customer service, technical support, market knowledge or delivery, to name a few. I call these additional attributes “the wrapper,” or the service and support you surround the product with. Be sure that when you speak with a potential client, you determine which of them is useful to their business. Price is less of an issue when there are other advantages for the client.
6. Use qualifying questions: It’s important to quickly understand the client’s potential need for your product and how they source it. By asking the right questions you can learn if the customer needs your product, who the current supplier is and who the decision maker is. Learning who the real decision maker is can often be the most challenging. I’ve seen numerous sale people sent down the wrong trail, and then loose the sale to a competitor that built a relationship with the decision maker. As Ronald Regan use to say, “trust but verify.”
7. Listen: It’s important to listen to your customers. Whether on a cold call or speaking with a customer you have sold to for years, listening is a critical skill that is often not practiced.
When cold calling you should never forget that ultimately, buying decisions are emotions over logic. Of course, once the decision is made, the customer’s mind looks for logical reasons that support the decision, but emotions drove the decision. The sooner you accept this fact, the more successful you will be at all sales efforts.